Monday, May 07, 2007

Five Down, An Eternity To Go

So, do you still think that a positive attitude and "leadership" from the players is going to help this team to surprise people? We faced two teams which are clearly superior, and they did what good teams do to dog teams like the Nats; they rolled over us. We'll get used to it.

Nats Record: 1-5
Overall: 9-22, worst in all of baseball and on pace for a 47-115 record.
Expected Record: 8-23, 44-118 pace
Runs Scored: 16 (2.7/game), same as last week. 94 overall (3.0 per game), next-to-last, but only because the Cardinals have played 2 fewer games.
Runs Allowed: 27 (4.5/game), same as last week. 161 overall (5.2 per game), 14th in the NL.

What's Good?
1) Shawn Hill! He continues to pitch effectively, even in a game like yesterday's where he didn't have his best stuff. Was it just an off day for him -- as if 3 runs allowed is an off day! -- or could the arm pain he was reporting a few weeks back be acting up?

2) Jon Rauch! He scuffled a bit earlier in the year, but three effective outings (nobody reached base) and he looks like he's back on track. Yesterday's two perfect innings should've been the story of the game.

3) Brian Schneider! Who? Imagine that! Quietly -- I really didn't even notice! -- he had himself a pretty good week, and hopefully is on his way to being back on track. He batted .312 and drove the ball, hitting 3 doubles.

What's Bad?

1) Team offense. I'm fond of using OPS+ as a shorthand for overall offensive value. It takes a team's OPS and adjusts it for context -- league and park influences -- and assigns a value of 100 to a league average team. The Nationals OPS+ is 78, meaning they are 22% worse than an average team. I clicked (and clicked and clicked) back through the NL's history to find a team with a worse OPS+. I gave up in 1965, when I stumbled across the Mets, who also had a 78 OPS+.

That Mets team had an old legendary manager notable for what he had contributed to the game in the past, but who was prone to napping in the dugout. Ron Swoboda led the team in homers, with 19, but batted .228. Their best pitcher lost 24 games. And they finished 50-112.

Study them well, Nats fans. They is us.

2) Ronnie Belliard. After his hot batting average-fueled start, he's cooled waaay off. He batted just .105, although this week, he walked 3 of the 7 times he's walked this season. Overall, he's down to a miserable .276/ .323/ .345 line, which is sure to make the sting of Guzman's return a little less biting. (To shovel one more handful of dirt -- since moving up to the #2 spot in the lineup, he's hit...well... take a look)

3) Dmitri Young. Like Belliard, he was another hot starter who's cooled off faster than {erudite analogy}. He batted .133 this week, though his key 2-RBI pinch hit yesterday, was one of the offensive highlights of the week (which is also offensive, in a certain sort of way). Overall, he's now batting .233/ .333/ .398. Since peaking on April 17th with a .302/ .434/ .581 line, he's gone on to bat just .219/ .282/ .328 since.

So who was supposed to trade for these two again?

3A) Chad Cordero. Sigh. This says it best.

Game O' The Week
Peavy versus a broken-down Patterson, and the Nats win!? Peavy was nasty, striking out 10 Nats in 7 innings, but they did just enough to hold on thanks to a rare Kory Casto RBI hit. The play most of us will remember, though, was Ryan Church's steal off Peavy. Peavy had nailed him in the shins with a breaking pitch on an 0-2 count, then completely forgot about him, as he pitched from a full windup. Church waltzed into second, and Austin Kearns would drive him in with a single up the middle. A surprisingly efficient outing from Chad Cordero, and the Nats held on for the 3-2 win.

Weekly Awards
MVP: Austin Kearns drove in more runs, and Brian Schneider had better overall numbers, but seeing Ryan Zimmerman start to hit a little bit (.304/ .407/ .391) makes him the sentimental winner.

Cy Young: Shawn Hill wasn't dominant (6 walks and 2 HBP), but 12+ innings with a 3.65 ERA should get a pitcher more than the 0-1 record he had this week.

LVP: Kory Casto. 24 times, he stepped into the box. Twice, he had hits (both doubles). 22 times he made an out, 8 of those via a K. And he didn't walk once. It's time to adjust, Kory. Cause right now, you're getting overpowered.

Joe Horgan Award: Chad Cordero. What've you done lately for us, Chad?

Weekly Whips:
4/30: John Patterson finally pitched like the pitcher we thought he was with one run allowed in a surprising win.
5/1: Brian Schneider showed up, but the rest of the offense took a night off.
5/2: Ryan Church played well, but Austin Kearns couldn't get that big hit.
5/4: But he had the big hit in this game, a 3-run bomb that should've been enough.
5/5: I love Jesus!!! (Flores)
5/6: Shawn Hill deserved better. Thanks, Chad!

Looking Ahead:
It should be another rough week, as the Nats take on the first-place Milwaukee Brewers then Florida to face the second-best offense in the league. If the Nats come out with two victories, we'll probably all feel like it's a success. (So watch them win 5 of 6!)

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